As hundreds of admiring fans bid Wilmer Valderrama an enthusiastic farewell as he headed to the airport in Brownsville, Texas, it was clear this is a passionate community filled with people who are proud of their home, heritage and stories.
Johnnie Walker joined forces with Valderrama, celebrated actor, director and activist, to travel to the U.S.-Mexico border to showcase the stories of Americans raised in close proximity to the border and the impact of cross-cultural influences on their personal progress.
This journey to the U.S.-Mexico border was part of Johnnie Walker’s new campaign, Keep Walking America, which celebrates the cultural progress and diversity that is shaping the new face of America today. While on the border, Valderrama got up close and personal with the people and places that define this iconic border town.
He walked the fence-line of the border along the Rio Grande, witnessed the daily ebb and flow of people crossing the International Bridge, and spoke with several hometown heroes to learn about their dreams, struggles and stories of personal progress.
Bianca Marroquín, a Brownsville native and the first Mexican-American actress to have a starring role on Broadway, met with Valderrama and shared, “I feel very fortunate to have grown up with both Mexican values and American traditions – it allows me to offer the world so much more.
I was raised by strong Latina women who pushed me to never give up and now I have a responsibility to lead by example. I hope I can help inspire a new generation to follow their dreams.”
Brothers Rick and Mark Del Castillo, founders of the band Del Castillo and also Brownsville natives, who have worked with Valderrama on previous projects, had the opportunity to catch up with Valderrama over a glass of Johnnie Walker.
They exchanged familiar stories of how their heritage and cultural upbringing defined their music noting, “While we may be from a small border town, our music has no borders and it resonates with people wherever we go – whether we’re in South Dakota or South America. We are proud to highlight our heritage through our music, as the modern world is all about sharing and acceptance, which helps us all grow and progress for the better.”
As Valderrama concluded his day he stated, “Traveling to Brownsville, Texas was an inspiring and humbling experience. I was able to meet some amazing people who have such a rich and wonderful heritage and it was incredible to hear their stories of progress and perseverance first-hand.
My journey to the border for the Keep Walking America campaign has moved me deeply, since it not only represents my own immigrant story, but it’s also a powerful message to our whole nation. I believe your heritage and culture are your biggest assets. If we collectively embrace the cultural diversity that helps define our country, it’s going to help us progress towards a more positive future together.”
Adrián González, another border town native and aspiring actor now living in Los Angeles, showed Valderrama the beautiful Rio Grande – the physical border between the United States and Mexico. Gonzalez went to school in Brownsville but lived in Matamoros, Mexico.
He detailed what it was like growing up in both cultures noting, “Matamoros and Brownsville are sister cities – one cannot exist without the other and that’s exactly how I feel about my heritage and culture. As you look across the river, both places look very similar. I believe that it shouldn’t be about pointing out differences, but rather coming together to celebrate our similarities. As Americans, we all come from diverse backgrounds and I believe we should embrace that.”
For more than 200 years Johnnie Walker has encouraged people to make progress in their lives by inspiring them with stories of the human spirit. Founded in 1820 by John Walker, the brand was built upon a commitment to excellence, which was fueled by John’s entrepreneurial spirit and fearless determination to perfect his craft.
Over the years, each generation of the Walker family worked through personal challenges, as well as the struggles of the time period, but still found a way to innovate and progress. As a result, Johnnie Walker has always stood for personal progress, and this initiative in Brownville, Texas is another moment in Johnnie Walker’s celebration of progress in the U.S. and the world.
Stephanie Jacoby, Vice President of Johnnie Walker North America, commented, “It is so important that we take an active role honoring stories and supporting initiatives that contribute to culture in a positive way. Now more than ever, we want to actively live out our purpose within society rather than simply stating it.
Our experience in Brownsville brings to life powerful messages of cultural progress and diversity that should be championed and celebrated.”
Source: Johnnie Walker